Philippines: Fishing communities struggle after Typhoon Haiyan

4 Feb 2014

24 Jan 2014, Concepcion, the Philippines: Danielo Delosindo, a father of five, poses in front of his destroyed boat. His fishing business used to be the sole source of income for his entire family. Credit: OCHA/Gemma Cortes
The fishing community of Concepcion on the far eastern tip of Iloilo Province was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

Danielo Delosindo’s boat – his family’s main source of income – was lost when Typhoon Haiyan crashed into his village of Concepcion on the eastern coast of Iloilo Province. In a matter of hours, his life was turned upside down.

“I have seen many, many typhoons in my 53 years, but nothing like this,” said the father of five. “Losing my boat was like losing a part of my body.”

More than two months on from the storm, coconut palms remain strewn across the village of 40,000. The violence of the accompanying storm surge is visible all along the seafront, where timber and bamboo homes were sucked into the Pacific Ocean and even concrete structures were torn apart.

According to the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 21 of the country’s 72 fishing provinces and over 145,000 fishermen were affected by the storm. In some areas up to 95 per cent of boats and fishing equipment were lost. In all, more than 14 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan, with 4 million displaced and more than 6,000 killed.

Rehabilitation efforts underway

The Philippine Government faces enormous challenges in rebuilding the region’s devastated economy and infrastructure. Losses from Haiyan are estimated at more than US$830 million. The economy, which relies heavily on agriculture and fishing, will take years to recover.

In Concepcion, more than 3,500 boats that were used to fish for anchovies, blue crab, herring and sardines were damaged or destroyed.

The typhoon also flattened jetties and landing ports, onshore ice and cold storage facilities, boat repair and maintenance facilities, processing factories and markets. Key aquaculture infrastructure was destroyed as well.

“Recovery requires immediate solutions – a fast recovery because 100 per cent of the population is dependent on fishing,” said Ros O’Sullivan, a Coordinator for Concern Worldwide, an NGO helping to restore the livelihoods of 2,100 families and 350 labor fishermen by providing vouchers and cash support to repair and build new boats.

Already, fishermen have begun exchanging their vouchers at local shops for new fishing gear, and for tools and materials to repair or build new boats.

Environmental challenges

Rehabilitation of lost mangroves and coral reefs will also be important as they act as buffer against storm surges and as a refuge and habitat for many species. The typhoon collapsed coral reefs, damaging fish habitats and driving the fish into deeper waters.

“Only ten per cent of the coral reef remains intact. This means a significant decline in the fishing catch as the majority of fish live in the coral reef,” says Emelina Avian, an Environment Management Specialists with the Concepcion Municipality. “Consequently one of the main challenges is diversification of livelihoods in the community.”

Local authorities have started exploring other possible revenue streams for community members with initial discussions focusing on planting and harvesting cassava and banana crops.

Hope on the horizon

The new boats are already helping to restore pride and independence in a community that has a tradition of taking care of its own needs.

“I was hopeless,” said Jerry Rovira. “I felt I had nothing left to live for but now I can start rebuilding my fishing boat and get back out on the water. We are so grateful that someone is helping us stand up again. Now that I will have a boat soon, I have hope again,” he says as he watches his youngest son play.

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